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Hand Wave

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Now that that's out of the way, let's move on!

Nick: Cigarettes in space? But wouldn't they blow up in an all-oxygen environment?
Jeff: ...Probably. But that's an easy fix! One line of dialogue. "Thank God we invented the, you know, whatever device."
Thank You for Smoking (discussing Product Placement in a Sci-Fi movie)

A Hand Wave (also memetically called "Scotch Tape") is any explanation involving the Backstory, a retcon, or a use of phlebotinum, which is noteworthy for its lack of detail or focus. The name comes from academia and techy-land, where a person explaining a process on a whiteboard gets to a part that is not well defined or important so just waves their hand around to indicate that Stuff Happens, then moves on to the important goodies. It could also describe the motion one might use to brush aside questions or objections.

A handwave may or may not be an example of bad writing, depending on how it is done. Some examples may be clumsy attempts at plugging up plot holes, but others might elegantly avoid bogging down the narrative with trivial details that aren't necessary to achieve a Willing Suspension of Disbelief. They can also be funny and intriguing in and of themselves.


The Watson is often a valuable source of hand waves. In Science Fiction shows, a hand wave is usually conducted with technobabble. In fact, an alternate name for Phlebotinum is Handwavium. In the industry, the vague and generic direction given by management to actors, designers, editors and so on is sometimes known as "hand waving", as it is frequently accompanied by a lot of gesturing.

May take advantage of the MST3K Mantra. Often related to an Unexplained Recovery. Contrast Voodoo Shark, which is an attempted hand wave that makes less sense than just letting the Fridge Logic stand on its own. In narrative games, an Obvious Rule Patch is often accompanied by an explanatory hand wave. See also A Wizard Did It.



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  • Less than a year after being reborn as "Baby Nut," the Planters Peanuts mascot Mr. Peanut revealed on Twitter that he is now 21 years old, saying "What can I say? It’s been a nutty year."

    Anime and Manga 
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann does this with anything that isn't completely awesome; Spiral Energy did it. And, to be honest, most of the stuff that is.
  • Detective Conan: In order for The Masquerade to be sustained, there are a number of details that the cast is forcibly required to ignore, otherwise it would lead to lots of awkward questions concerning Conan about his identity. Most of these have been lampshaded by the characters themselves or simply ignored.
    • Kogoro's (and occasionally Sonoko's) "habit" of collapsing to the ground and delivering brilliant deductions while appearing soundly asleep, especially after spending most of the investigation making inaccurate and counter-productive guesses, was at best only treated as "quirky" for a long while. Eventually, he earned the nickname of "Sleeping Kogoro" for this, to the point where most of the people assisting the investigation eagerly await the moment of sudden inspiration, and find it strange when he solves cases without falling asleep.
    • Following the previous point, Kogoro and Sonoko never had much of an issue taking credit for deductions they have no recollection of. Both cases are somewhat handwaved as ego-stroking and, in Kogoro's case, a simple "Meh, whatever" attitude where he doesn't care so long as the job is done. He eventually becomes aware of his unexplained bouts of somnolence, believing that he has an alter-ego solving his cases for him.
    • Conan's involvement in the investigations, particularly him wandering around the crime scenes finding or noticing things, was for a long time treated as simply annoying behaviour from a nosy kid. Unlike the previous two points, this became an actually recognized point when several characters became aware that the stuff he comes up with tends to be important and ends up leading everyone else with the investigations. Satou was the first adult to consider him useful, and eventually Ran, Megure, Takagi and others accepted it as well. Nevertheless, Heiji is still the only one who actually drew the right conclusion from it instead of simply treating it as quirky.
  • The lack of male-type humanoid robots in Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou is supposedly because of the male versions being "weaker" than the female ones, but how this difference comes about is never explained.
  • Bleach:
    • When Renji's sword Zabimaru breaks free, Zabimaru is shown as a split being, a monkeyish woman and a childish snake. This is contrary to Zabimaru's previous appearance, which was an actual monkey that had a snake for a tail (a Nue). When Renji asks why Zabimaru isn't in its previous form, the Chimpette half of Zabimaru simply laughs and says, "Since when are you so concerned with minor details?" "That's a pretty big freakin' detail!" This is actually based on an omake when Renji and Hisagi read a catalogue of changes Mayuri can do to their weapons' true forms, Renji sees that changing them into females is possible, with one female example being exactly the form of Chimpette right down to the green fur covering the body.
    • Yammy, the lowest-ranked Espada who constantly got knocked around is suddenly revealed to be the 0th Espada and the most powerful. Despite this, he's easily beaten off-screen by Kenpachi and Byakuya. A databook tried to explain this discrepancy by saying that the Espada are ranked by who has the most reiatsu, and Yammy wasn't as dangerous as the others because he only had power with no special abilities. The problem is that one of his opponents, Kenpachi, also relies solely on brute strength, and also has no special abilities, but wins almost every one of his fights. It's even been stated that reiatsu is the deciding factor in who wins a battle between spiritual beings, which would seem to be borne out by Ichigo always beating people who have over a century worth of experience while he has, at most, a few months of training.
  • The Future Arc in Reborn! (2004) concluded with the Acrobalenos performing a huge Reset Button so that Byakuran never gains the power of the Mare Rings when the inevitable Time Paradox is pointed out by Shoichi, Verde's response was simply that the existence of the Trinnisette amounts to a miracle by itself and can't be explained by science or common sense.
  • Eiichiro Oda, maker of One Piece, is famous for giving very strange explanations when the fans ask him about the show, like saying that Zoro can talk with a sword in his mouth because his heart allows him to. Or that Sanji's leg is perfectly unharmed after being intensely heated because 'his heart burns hotter.' Given that the entire world of One Piece runs on Nonsensoleum, these explanations (as ridiculous as they may be) are also literally true. At least sometimes.
  • In The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, it's never clearly explained how Sagara Yoshiharu not only traveled back in time to the Sengoku Jidai, but many of the major people he remembered as old guys are instead young women. And the one guy who saves his life at the beginning was Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who is conveniently killed off, and tells the young lad to take his place and help Oda Nobuna to achieve her dreams of uniting Japan.
  • In Girls und Panzer, the various tanks the girls ride around in have some special coating on them that prevents their tanks from blowing up any time they get hit. Aside from that, it coasts on Rule of Cool, so shut up and enjoy the ride!
  • In Usotsuki Lily, the mangaka's comments give all sorts of reasons as to why the main characters aren't in any school club (job, dates, kendo practice, prefer reading, "sweating is tiresome"...)
  • In World's End Harem, the fact that living healthy babies are only possible if the conception is made through sexual intercourse, Reito confronts the situation that he must become a breeding stallion, Suou responds that artificial insemination proved to be unsuccessful and babies succumbed to the virus, even though there should be no difference whatsoever from how the women got their eggs fertilized by the five remaining men on Earth who are immune and survived the virus that purged all other men on the planet, especially considering it’s an advanced society from 2045. The author simply did this to enforce fanservice, for now women are obligated to throw themselves to mate with men, and also force drama on the unwilling Reito, who’s trying his best to cope with the fact the world has turned upside-down and preserve himself for the woman he loves, who has disappeared and now he is trying to find her.
  • In Zombie Land Saga Sakura asks Kotaro how she became a zombie:
    Kotaro: Come on. Haven't you seen a zombie movie before?
    Sakura: I have, for the record.
    Kotaro: Well there you go, then.
    [extended beat]

    Comic Books 
  • Scrooge McDuck has always been known for swimming in his money. In the Carl Barks story, "Only A Poor Old Man", the Beagle Boys manage to legally get his cash, leading Scrooge to lament how he won't be able to indulge in his hobby. After giving a demonstration, the old duck offers that the Boys try it themselves. The Beagles dive in, and immediately knock themselves out on the pile of coins. When Huey, Dewey and Louie bring up the Fridge Logic, Scrooge remarks, "I'll admit- It's a trick!"
    • ANOTHER handwave in a Don Rosa story... he swam in his money and it got easier and easier...
  • The Flash has the Speed Force, an energy source/dimension that is also a prison, a mass vaporizer, an all-around way for speedsters to tell the laws of physics to sit down and shut up, and an explanation for how an increasing pool of characters are randomly struck by lightning in front of a wall of chemicals.
  • Superman:
    • Probably not attributable to the original creators, but a Finnish Superman magazine once answered the question in reader mail about how Superman can fly: It's just like how we walk. He activates the muscles used for flying. And now you know!
    • In Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, Superman and Spider-Man co-habit the same universe. How can this be? It was never explained and no fan cared about the whys or hows because it was awesome.
      Gerry Conway: "Purists may complain that we never explained how Superman and Spider-Man ended up in the same 'universe'...; to our minds, how they got there was beside the point."
  • Speaking of Spider-Man, a particularly famous explanation for how Spidey swings when his webline doesn't appear to be attached to anything is that there just so happened to be a helicopter off-panel that he's swinging from.
  • A famous cartoon by Sidney Harris shows two scientists at a blackboard, on which is written
    [complicated expression]
    then a miracle occurs...
    [complicated expression]
with the caption, "I think you should be more explicit here in step 2."
  • In 100 Bullets, the finer points of how Agent Graves pulls off his "game" note  are left intentionally vague, leaving a few lingering questions about how it's all possible. In particular: how does he always find irrefutable evidence proving his targets guilty of their crimes, even when there were no witnesses? If he can always prove his targets guilty, then why can't the police and the courts? And how does he have enough influence to give the recipients immunity when he's not a member of the Trust anymore? We get the answer in the final story arc: he just knows a really well-connected arms dealer. No, it doesn't perfectly explain everything...but considering there wouldn't even be a story without the briefcase plot, it's forgivable.
  • The first run of Rat Queens ended with a fan favorite getting murdered. Fan backlash was immediate and intense enough that the creator put the series on pause for a year. When it came back, the incident was explained as the first fight in a townwide doppelganger attack.

    Fan Works 
  • Aurora Falls: The Valkyrie Field is used as an explanation as to how the protagonist of the game can be continually resurrected from death.
  • My Immortal: Dumbledore isn't Out of Character, he only swor coz he had a hedache ok
  • In the Tamers Forever Series, the absence of Takato's crush on Jeri from the original series is off-handedly referenced and attributed to him never truly having been in love with her.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, this trope is literally invoked when the narrator says that most flaws in logic can be handwaved by the work of wizards/magic.
    • Given that they do live in a world of talking horses and magic unicorns, technically, it does make sense.
    • She repeats the same thing regarding inconsistencies in history, handwaving it off as the work of time travel when she was too lazy to come up with an actual explanation.
  • In The Prayer Warriors, during his first encounter with Percy Jackson, Jerry, the main character, realizes that there is a traitor among the Prayer Warriors, and spends the next few chapters trying to figure out who it is. It's revealed, midway through this process, that God told him that there was a traitor the night before the attack, but God apparently neglected to mention who the traitor was.
    • When Grover is brainwashed into fighting against the Prayer Warriors, it is offhandedly mentioned that his coming back after being killed four times in the past was due to being cloned by atheists.
  • In Real Life, the Boy Scouts of America has a "Two Deep Leadership" policy. Any interactions between youth members and adults has to have at least two adults present as a safety: to avoid placing children at risk if a Scoutmaster has unsavory intentions, or to protect the adults from untrue accusations of such intentions. In the Ranma ½ Elsewhere Fic Boy Scouts ½, Matthew Atanian is an Assistant Scoutmaster, and he frequently spends time with his friends who are youth in the program. Matthew, being 20 as the story begins, is not exceptionally older than his friends who are all mid-to-late teens. Still, he spends a lot of time hanging out with his friends, even away from Scouting functions, where he is the only adult present. This is largely a matter of plot, as it would be difficult for them to get into a lot of the situations they do if they had to drag an additional person who was over 18 along with them — especially if this person was unaware of the Jusenkyo curses that Matthew and four of his friends suffer from. Still, in the real world, the amount of time Matthew spends with his friends could have Unfortunate Implications and lead Matthew into much trouble. This is handwaved on a few occasions, with Matthew being aware of the policies but glossing over them as he knows he has no ill intent and he trusts his friends to not mention his ignoring of said policies to those who might take issue with it.
  • Used in Pokémon: Clefairy Tales to explain any deviation from game mechanics (e.g. Normal-type attacks vs. Ghost-type Pokémon).
  • In The Story to End All Stories, this is used several times to explain what happens in the story.
  • In the Steven Universe/One Piece crossover A Gem in the Rough, After Damian announces his intention to become a Beach City fireman, we get this lovely exchange:
    Connie Maheswaran: "Wait...can you even stay here? You don't have a Social Security Card or money or...well anything!"
    Damian: "Don't worry about it. Mayor Dewey told me he would help me become a citizen abusing some kind of legal loophole or something."
    Connie Maheswaran: "That raises more questions!"
  • TRON. Patchwork Fic authors integrating TRON 2.0 and TRON: Legacy canons explain Jet's absence in the film as him being in Washington DC visiting his mom, Jet and Sam having a nasty falling-out before the film's events, or some combination of the two.
  • Invoked in The Next Frontier when someone started asking complicated technical questions about how exactly the Kerbin Space Agency's shiny new Alcubierre Drive worked and received a pointed Shrug of God:
    "If I wanted to write pages and pages of exposition about technical minutiae of little or no direct relevance to the actual plot, I'd go and get a job ghostwriting for Clive Cussler."
  • The Setup Wizard: People pointed out that with Hogwarts' anti-tech field, computers don't work on the grounds. Jonathan just says that's because they never had an IT guy before.
  • Fate/Harem Antics: Iri (who is controlling the Holy Grail from beyond the grave) mentions early on that while she does need a catalyst to summon a Servant, she doesn't have to use the one that the mage is presenting; she can use anything in the room. We don't see what catalysts she uses, but apparently the average mage's workshop has a lot to choose from, allowing her to alter the summoned Servants to ones she thinks will be better for her son Shirou to hook up with.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Emperor's New Groove, Kuzco and Pacha arrive at Yzma's lair, only to discover Yzma and Kronk are already there...despite the fact that the latter duo had just dropped into a chasm after getting hit by lightning. They even lampshade it:
    Kuzco: No! It can't be! How did you get back here before us?!
    Yzma: [beat] ...How did we, Kronk?
    Kronk: Well, ya got me. [pulls down the map of their path] By all accounts, it doesn't make sense.
    Yzma: Oh well. Back to business!
  • In The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, SpongeBob is able to drive the Patty Wagon, a Cool Car, despite the fact that he's canonically a terrible driver. When Patrick questions this, SpongeBob replies, "You don't need a license to drive a sandwich." And that's it, he's inexplicably a Badass Driver for the entire length of time that they have the Patty Wagon in their possession.
  • In-universe example in Bolt: when Penny and Bolt walk out on their show after Penny nearly died from working with an untrained Replacement Goldfish for Bolt, her replacement actor is introduced to the show as the character getting reconstructive surgery.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Wizard of Oz: Glinda waits till the end of the movie to tell Dorothy about the ruby slippers. Why didn't she tell her at the beginning, instead of sending her Off To See The Wizard down the Yellow Brick Road? "Because you wouldn't have believed me." This covers up a plot hole caused by merging two different Witches from the books.
  • In Batman Begins, Batman (who has a strict no-kill policy) gets into a high-speed chase on the freeway with the cops, causes more than a couple crashes and drives over several cop cars with the cops still inside, endangering dozens of civilian and police officer lives. Yet we know no one is hurt (very badly) because Alfred says: "It's a miracle no one was killed." The same thing happens in The Dark Knight, as he fires high-powered guns into what appears to be a mall's glass door to break it so he can drive through, then showing people dodging out of the way. No way someone wasn't going to get hit. In The Dark Knight, it is "explained" that the Batmobile has "life sign scanners."
  • In the film The Abyss, the pressurized station so deep underwater that it can cause illness to people on board is brought to the surface in the space of less than a minute, and immediately people climb out, without having any symptoms of 'the bends.' Lindsey defuses a Fridge Logic moment by saying "We should all be dead. We didn't depressurize," and another character answers, "[The aliens] must have done something to us." No further explanation is given. Orson Scott Card's novelization provides an actual explanation.
  • In Big Trouble in Little China, Egg Shen disappears after the fight in the assembly hall, then abruptly reappears to throw his friends an escape rope through a hole in the ceiling. When asked how the he got up there, Egg just says "It Wasn't Easy!"
  • Back to the Future:
    • At the end of Back to the Future Part II, the DeLorean gets struck by lightning while flying, and gets sent to 1885. At the point when the lightning actually strikes the car, it is stationary in the air, but it has to be moving at 88 miles per hour to time travel (which is important in both parts I and III). When it got hit it wasn't moving. The handwave is that the lightning causes the DeLorean to spin at 88 miles per hour, shown with the trails of fire being spirals in the air (the 1885 date is justified, as the time circuits were shown earlier to be broken, and an 1885 date was briefly shown).
    • The letter that Doc Brown sent in 1885 to Marty. The idea that anyone would follow through with instructions to send a letter to someone 70 years in the future with exact location and time is a little tough to swallow; the guy just explains that they were taking bets down at the Western Union whether Marty would be there or not.
    • Lea Thompson, who plays Marty's mother Lorraine Baines-McFly throughout the trilogy, plays his paternal great-great-grandmother Maggie McFly in Part III. The real explanation was that neither Robert Zemeckis nor Bob Gale could bear making a BTTF movie without her, and the In-Universe explanation is that all McFly men are genetically predisposed to be attracted to women who look like Lea Thompson.
    • Towards the end of Part I, Doc traveled to 2015 with his dog Einstein with him, but when he came back, Einstein was missing. In Part II, Doc tells Marty that Einstein was in a suspended animation kennel between trips.
  • A fairly large hand wave occurs in the third act of Scream 2 during the big reveal that one of the killers is Mrs. Loomis, the mother of Billy Loomis, Sidney's deceased former boyfriend and one of the killers in the first film. As Gale obviously would have seen pictures of Mrs. Loomis while investigating the case, how she encountered Mrs. Loomis under the guise of a local journalist earlier in the film without recognizing her is explained with a short exchange:
    Gale: No, it can't be. I've seen pictures of [her].
    Sidney: Yeah, this is 60 pounds and a lot of work later.
  • This trope is referenced by a movie executive in Thank You for Smoking. They are discussing the idea of having two actors smoke in a movie that's set on a space station.
    Nick: But wouldn't they blow up in an all-oxygen environment?
    Jeff: Probably. But that's an easy fix. One line of dialogue. "Thank God we invented the, you know, whatever device."
    Nick: Of course.
    • Of course if they knew their space history they'd pure oxygen is far too big a fire hazard to use in space.
  • In the book Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, in order to travel to a plot-important location, Harry and Dumbledore must sneak out of the school to a completely deserted street in a nearby village, from which they can then Apparate. In the film, the following time-saving exchange occurs:
    Dumbledore: Take my arm.
    Harry: Sir, I thought you couldn't Apparate within Hogwarts.
    Dumbledore: Well... being me has its privileges.
  • The film Heartbreak Ridge focuses on the actions of US Marines in Grenada. The main character, and one of the supporting cast, are said to be veterans of the titular battle, which was fought by the US Army in the Korean War. One of the characters handwaves this by saying "we joined the Corps later." The real reason for this unlikely situation is that the filmmakers tried to get military support from the US Army but they rejected the request, unhappy with the script. When the Marines offered to help instead, the characters were hastily rewritten to be Marines, and the handwave thrown in.
  • In the film Ocean's Thirteen, to explain the absence of series regulars Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Danny Ocean (George Clooney) repeats the phrase "It's not their fight!" numerous times within the first ten minutes of the film. However, this turns out to be just to cover up the fact that they're going through rough patches in their relationships with Danny and Rusty; Danny and Rusty were too embarrassed to tell anyone.
  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure: After Bill asks how the time machine works, Rufus replies "Modern technology, William."
  • In the Sherlock Holmes film A Study in Terror, Holmes is trapped in a burning building. They quickly cut to him back at Baker Street, explaining that he survived because, as everyone knows, he's indestructible.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Whenever something improbable happens, the character (usually Jack Sparrow or Captain Teague) insists Sea Turtles were involved.
  • Lake Placid has a character question how a giant crocodile could get to their land-locked lake in North America from the other side of the world, especially since it was a freshwater species that couldn't have swam the ocean anyway. Another character smugly replies: "They keep that kind of information in something called books."
  • In Hudson Hawk, Tommy goes over a cliff in a burning car, but shows up at the end, burnt but very alive, which he handwaves with "airbags" and "built-in sprinklers". As this is the guy whose Catchphrase is "Can you believe it?!", it fits rather well.
  • The Matrix Reloaded: The Architect tells Neo that he must either reboot the Matrix or allow it to crash, killing all humans inside of it. When Neo asks why the machines would allow the Matrix to crash, since they rely on it for power, the Architect says only that there are levels of existence that the machines are willing to accept. No further details on how the machines can survive without the Matrix are provided.
  • Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker steadfastly refuses to explain how Emperor Palpatine came Back from the Dead after being killed in Return of the Jedi. When Kylo Ren asks him, he simply says "The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural," and when the Resistance learn about it, they have the following exchange:
    Poe Dameron: We've decoded the intel from the First Order spy, and it confirms the worst. *sigh* Somehow, Palpatine returned.
    Rose Tico: Wait, do we believe this?
    Aftab Ackbar: It cannot be! The Emperor is dead!
    Beaumont Kin: Dark science... Cloning... Secrets only the Sith knew.
  • Jurassic Park: Later films in the series brush off the fact the depiction of dinosaurs in the franchise have become increasingly inaccurate with more discoveries made since their relatively accurate appearances in the first film with some throwaway lines that they were "genetically-engineered theme park monsters" specifically designed to be crowd-pleasing hybrids or the result of frog DNA influence rather than "real" dinosaurs, allowing them to keep using outdated (or even outright made-up) depictions that have long since been disproven.

  • In Jack Finney's short story "Behind the News", a newspaper man uses a melted-down meteor made of an unknown metal to make his news come true (kind of like The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Printer's Devil"), and when his secretary doesn't understand how it's happening, he gives the following explanation:
    Johnny: [sternly] Miss Gerraghty, if you had ever read science fiction, you'd know that the dullest part is always the explanation. It bores the reader and clutters up the story. Especially when the author flunked high-school physics and simply doesn't know how it works.
  • In Bored of the Rings, the question of whether there might be some more convenient way of disposing of the ring than schlepping it all the way to Fordor is raised and dodged:
    Frito suddenly felt that all eyes were on him. "Couldn't we just drop it down a storm drain, or pawn it and swallow the ticket?" he said.
    "Alas," said Goodgulf solemnly, "it is not that easy."
    "But why?"
    "Alas," explained Goodgulf.
    "Alackaday," Orlon agreed.
  • Discworld:
    • The setting takes place on a giant disc, with a Waterfall into the Abyss around the entire planet. How are the oceans not completely drained away? "Arrangements are made."
    • Whenever time travel of any stripe shows up, expect to hear the phrase "because quantum" a lot. Not quantum harmonics or singularities or anything so specific. Just... quantum.
  • There's never any danger of the international intrigue in the Ender's Game series erupting into a full-scale nuclear war because, as Peter Wiggin explains in a throwaway line in the first book, the invention of energy shields has made nuclear weapons obsolete. Although later in the Ender's Shadow subseries, it is further clarified that the International Fleet, while normally neutral toward Earthside conflicts, will severely punish any nation that uses nukes.
  • In one of Harlan Ellison's short stories, he has the protagonist trapped in a situation that, judging by the description, there is absolutely no way he could logically escape. The author then stops the story to tell us that the protagonist remembers a time he once bought a pulp novel that ended with a Cliffhanger in which its hero was likewise trapped in a seemingly inescapable situation. When the next chapter finally arrived, he very eagerly snapped it up, only to discover that it tied up all the stuff left hanging in the last episode in the first sentence by turning the hero into an action figure and having him punch his way out of the trap. Getting back to the story, the author then tells us the protagonist was still thinking of how cheated he'd felt about that pulp novel's hand-wave—when he finally escaped.
  • A criticism of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot stories is the way the mysteries are sometimes solved. It relies either on a one in a million chance that Poirot's interpretation is correct or Poirot knows something without going into how he knows it with Poirot hand waving the whole thing with "I have my methods."
  • In the children's science fiction novel I Left My Sneakers in Dimension X, the main character is transported to Dimension X. Shortly after finding himself able to communicate with one of the locals there, he asks how he speaks his language. The local responds that the opposite is happening and the protagonist is speaking the language of Dimension X, which he quickly realizes is true. The explanation given is a quick bit about cross-dimensional travel's effect on the mind, and is never brought up again. Nor is it really a very good explanation, if someone from Dimension X came to our dimension, what language would they speak? (Considering in the series it includes not only the hundreds of languages on Earth but also alien ones.)
    • It's stated that you have to "cross dimensions in exactly the right way", and that the monster that brought the protagonist there is "a perfectionist". Presumably, if you cross precisely, you can rearrange someone's brain in just the right way that they start speaking a different language. Telepathy, which appears into the series a lot, is probably also involved. It's still a major Handwave, but at least you could say that it's the work of the one creating the dimensional bridge, rather than a natural effect.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Olympians, demigods spend a great deal of time together and frequently end up dating each other. Unfortunately their Godly parents are almost all related one way or another, which would mean demigods are generally related, often times technically as close as first cousins. However it's explained that Gods don't actually have DNA, so demigods aren't actually biologically related and dating is fine. Dating someone who shares a Godly parent IS still considered inappropriate, despite the fact that by the above argument t are technically not related either.
  • In Dante's Purgatorio, Virgil admits he can't understand how the gaseous bodies of the dead are both intangible and susceptible to torments, so he hypothesizes God has hidden how this works from man and moves on from the topic.
  • This trope is the subject of a whole scene in the Beverly Cleary book "Ramona the Pest." On her first day of Kindergarden, Ramona is hoping to finally learn the answer to one of her most pressing questions — how, in the famous kids' book "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel," Mike Mulligan is able to go to the bathroom while digging the giant hole he can't get out of. After Ramona asks the teacher, the children argue amongst themselves, offering different theories, before concluding that Ramona's right — it would have been impossible. The teacher, clearly out of her league, announces with feigned authority that the question wasn't addressed because "it wasn't important," leaving Ramona deeply disillusioned with the public school system.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's The Rolling Stones, Hazel is writing a television show and got herself into this exact problem in what was intended to be series finale. When the show gets renewed, she and her grandsons start the next season with the hero back in the office perfectly healthy, and about to respond to another character's question "How did you escape?", when "the next action starts and it's so fast and so violent and so bloody that our unseen audience doesn't have time to think about it until the next commercial."
  • Arthur C. Clarke made a habit out of this in his Space Odyssey Series. Whenever an inconsistency came up in between novels, he would explain that the books, film adaptations, and anything regarding the series as a whole should be thought of as all taking place in very similar universes with a few small inconsistencies in between. For example, he felt that Stanley Kubrick's idea of having the Monolith be orbiting Jupiter to make more sense than the way he originally wrote it as orbiting Saturn with a stop by Jupiter along the way. As such, in 2010: Odyssey Two, he rewrote it to match the film version, with the Monolith orbiting Jupiter instead of Saturn.
  • Lampshaded in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series; a "textual sieve" is apparently some sort of book security device, but it is never very clear exactly what it does. At one point, a character asks Thursday just what it is, and she replies, "It's never fully explained."
  • The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey offers a few theories around the Land of Galma, setting of The Queen of Twilight by Fabiella Banks, which the titular girls from Jersey have magically appeared in and which is not entirely as the author described it: "Had Fabiella created it by writing it? Or had it existed on its own, before the writing? Had Fabiella visited it? Or were they, somehow, inside the imagination of Fabiella Banks? Oh, it was all too weird." Judging by her later thoughts, Veronica seems to run with the idea that she's in a real place Fabiella Banks visited. The narrative never discusses it again.
  • Each chapter of Naked Came the Stranger was written by a different author. Any inconsistencies left by the editing process are explained by Gillian's ability to transform in the eye of the beholder into any man's ideal woman, even if his ideal woman looks and acts nothing like her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alex Rider: How are some of Dr Greif's clones female? Something something genetic something, basically.
  • Arrowverse: Time travel in all the shows, especially The Flash (2014), has always been infamously inconsistent. Eventually, Savitar mentions that the more you time travel, the less the rules apply to you. This explains quite a few things, most obviously all the people who keep surviving getting paradoxed out of existence.
  • In Babylon 5, one common statement is that no Minbari has killed another Minbari since Valen's time. But in a season four episode, Marcus challenges Nehroon to a battle to the death under the Minbari ritual of denn'sha. Since Nehroon immediately knows what it is, that implies that the Minbari have been killing each other in formal duels for quite some time, despite this 'Minbari do not kill Minbari' principle. In one of the books they hand wave it by saying that by agreeing to fight a denn'sha duel, you agree to take responsibility for your death on your own hands if you lose. This means that every single Minbari who died in a duel has technically committed suicide, which doesn't count.
  • Blake's 7 used a similar device in the pilot. When it's been established that the Cool Ship our heroes have semi-accidentally stolen can go ridiculously fast compared to any ship owned by the dystopian government they're rebelling against with varying degrees of enthusiasm, Blake points out that they should have crossed "the antimatter threshold" and been reduced to their component atoms at that velocity.note  Avon shrugs this off, pointing out that people once thought the same thing about the light barrier.
  • Anything involving Dawn as the Key on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And any time when someone explains why the main problem of an episode just can't be resolved using a simpler spell or plan. Anya later lampshaded it. When someone mentioned the part about Buffy's blood working as a substitute for Dawn's, she says something to the effect of "Yeah, I never got that part."
  • In Charmed the go-to handwaver was Leo, whose encyclopedic knowledge of magic and the Elders' rules allowed him to consistently offer an offhand one-sentence explanation for blatant inconsistencies between episodes. A good example of this is his explanation of Piper's powers working by speeding and slowing molecules, which doesn't scientifically add up.
  • In Cheers, Frasier Crane mentions that his father is dead, and was a research scientist. Fast forward to the Spin-Off Frasier, and Martin Crane is an ex-cop and very much alive. The writers explain this away when Sam Malone visits Frasier and points this out, by having Frasier admit he was actually lying, as he'd just had a fight with Martin offscreen when he said that. Marty, on the other hand, is just insulted he made him a ''research scientist'', as he feels it shows Frasier's snootines toward his working-class job.
    Frasier: You were dead, what did it matter?
  • Doctor Who:
    • There really are no strict rules for time travel in the series, or at least, none that make sense: The past can be changed, and indeed, is in danger of being disastrously changed all the time. Time travel logical problems that need to be overcome are handwaved with Timey-Wimey Ball. To handwave why the Doctor sometimes can't fix a serious problem or prevent a historical tragedy, he'll announce that it's a "fixed point in time", which makes him unable to change it.
    • The sonic screwdriver is a small handheld device capable of performing almost any task needed to get the Doctor out of a jam, including diagnosing injuries, locking/unlocking doors, hacking computers, blowing up security cameras, and, yes, even turning screws. The device works by flipping a switch and waving it at the intended target. Overuse caused the screwdriver to get removed from the classic series, but it was brought back and significantly strengthened in the new run. To compensate for its increased usefulness, they introduced a Kryptonite Factor in the "deadlock seal", which cannot be opened by sonic screwdriver. Oh, and it doesn't do wood.
    • Magic and supernatural events are usually rationalized with a scientific explanation such as werewolves are genetic mutants. But several stories like "The Dæmons" and "The Shakespeare Code" feature events that are magic in every way with the Doctor stating it is not show, but actual power. But he refuses to call it magic and dismisses it as unexplained science without bothering to make an attempt to explain why it is not magic or the rationale behind it, since Doctor Who is supposed to be science fiction with no magic.
    • "Robot" hinges on the highly politically implausible premise that the launch equipment and access codes for all the nuclear missiles on Earth have been given to various British politicians for safekeeping. Upon learning this from the Brigadier, the Doctor shoots back, "Naturally, the others were all foreigners", with a smirky, just-go-with-it delivery that stops just short of an Aside Glance.
    • The Master's return from certain death (being burned alive in "Planet of Fire") is completely handwaved when he next appears in "The Mark of the Rani". When asked how he survived, the Master simply replies "I'm indestructible. The whole universe knows that." And that's the end of it. No explanation is even attempted onscreen. (There's a very brief, rather unconvincing one in the novelization, though.)
    • K-9's bout of laryngitis during one story in the 4th Doctor's era, due to the writer of the story personally disliking K-9. The Doctor himself was completely bewildered. "What do you need it for?"
    • The psychic paper was explicitly devised by Russell T. Davies to facilitate this; it can show whatever the person holding it wants the person reading it to see, meaning that the Doctor can explain what he's doing in the room where he shouldn't be or why he might have been found over a corpse quickly and bluntly without having to hold the plot up however many episodes until it all got sorted out.
    • The perception filter, which either acts as a disguise or (more usually) prevents people from noticing you. It's now being used as the excuse for the monster of the week to be able to hide from everyone all the time. The writers at least had the grace to lampshade this in an episode where when everyone fails to notice for ages that they're on a planet of two-headed aliens and all the statues have one head, when the Doctor declares that it's either a perception filter, or they're just all idiots.
    • The mini-special "Time Crash" brings together the Tenth and Fifth Doctors. As there's no way to hide how much older Peter Davison is, it's simply addressed with one line of technobabble, suggesting it's a side-effect of their timelines colliding.
    • "The Hungry Earth"/"Cold Blood" features Silurians that are much more human-looking than any from the classic series. This is explained away as them being a different subspecies then ones that had previously appeared before.
    • In "Let's Kill Hitler", freshly-regenerated River Song suggests to herself "Maybe I'll dial back the age a bit. Gradually. Just to freak people out." as a handwave for why she appears to be getting older even though her timeline and the Doctor's are reversed.
    • For "Twice Upon a Time", the First Doctor is played by David Bradley, instead of his original actor, William Hartnell (who was played by Bradley in a documentary). When the Twelfth Doctor encounters the First, Twelve suggests that One is resisting his regeneration, so his face is "all over the place".
  • In Farscape, the explanation given by Crichton at one point as to how a ship equipped with 'hetch drive' is able to travel faster than light is that "Einstein was wrong" which, for a bit of handwaving, is actually quite clever.
  • The writers of Friends have tried to handwave the show's frequent contradictions in its depictions of how Rachel met Chandler by saying they were meant to be a joke.
  • On Fringe the original Peter's death required a rather huge handwave, since the entire premise of the series pretty much revolves around nobody realizing that Walter replaced him with the Peter stolen from the alternate universe. The fact that nobody except a handful of people realized the original Peter was actually dead was explained away by the idea that young Peter was so sickly that he was always kept indoors, never went to school and had few friends or visitors. Nevertheless, a burial service was shown (with the mourners consisting only of Walter, his wife, Nina Sharp and the priest) and a headstone for Peter did exist. Why the FBI never managed to discover on a routine background check (when the redverse Peter was hired) that Peter Bishop died in 1985 remains a mystery.
  • Game of Thrones: Jaime notes, "I never understood why some knights felt the need to carry two swords," as a handwave for why Brienne has a second sword for him to steal before their Sword Fight. In the books, Jamie's sword came from his other escort, Cleos Frey, who was Adapted Out.
  • In-universe in the "Popilikia" episode of the reimagined Hawaii Five-0. At the end of the third-season premiere, three episodes earlier, we'd seen McGarrett's mother, Doris, whom he'd only recently learned had actually faked her own death twenty years earlier, in a confrontation with the show's Big Bad, Wo Fat, who wanted to kill her in order to avenge his own father's death. The ballistics report showed that she had fired three shots into the floor, apparently allowing him to escape. She explained in the later episode that those shots were simply the result of a struggle between her and Wo Fat. McGarrett apparently accepted it, but later he confided to Danny that he did not.
  • In The Man from U.N.C.L.E., one of the innocents involved in the Affair was concerned that Solo was killing so many enemy agents, he explained that they used "sleep darts" in their guns.
  • In The Mentalist season 5 finale, Red John does a couple of things that are seemingly impossible: he comes up with Jane's list of Red John suspects months before Jane does, and he somehow accesses a childhood memory of Jane's that Jane had never shared. In the episode where Jane finally catches Red John, Red John offers to explain how he did it, but Jane bluntly tells him he doesn't care before strangling him to death, which conveniently saves the writers from having to come up with an explanation.
  • Parodied in the "Cycling Tour" episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Gulliver and Pither are about to be bayonetted by a group of Russian soldiers. Just as the soldiers charge, a "Scene Missing" slide appears on the screen. Immediately after that, they cut to Gulliver and Pither on a road in Cornwall, with Pither saying, "Phew! What an amazing escape!"
  • In the episode "The End of the Whole Mess" in Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes series of TV movies, Howard Fornoy hand waves the issue of how he and his brother raised the vast amount of money needed for their experiment in such a short time. Justified in that an explanation would kill the story's momentum, Howard genuinely doesn't have time to go into it and nobody really cares.
  • Odd Squad:
    • A common issue many fans have with the series as a whole is when episodes are supposed to take place. Even with established canon dates, there are numerous continuity errors when it comes to the series timeline, many of which contradict each other and others which just don't make sense. When asked about this, Tim McKeon summed up his answer in two words: "Time travel."
    • At the end of "The Trouble with Centigurps", Otto takes down the storage container with the lone Centigurp to the Storage Room. He opens it, and finds nothing but a light, a desk, and Octavia. Otto asks where exactly all of the stuff in the room is stored, but Octavia simply answers with, "It's complicated."
    • In "Odd Beginnings: Part 2", Opal wonders how the van, given to her and her teammates as part of the newly-created Mobile Unit department, is Bigger on the Inside than it is on the outside. Oprah responds aptly with, "The more questions you ask, the less sense it makes."
  • Power Rangers Megaforce:
    • When the team receives their new Super Megaforce powers, everyone keeps the same suit colors except Jake, who goes from black to green. When he asks why, Gosei says there's a perfectly reasonable explanation... and then the monster attack alarm goes off, and the issue is never raised again.note 
    • The series also handwaves the pre-Zyuranger-era Ranger powers and additions to the Legendary Megazord as just random stuff that gets unlocked as they go on, like some sort of RPG.
  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch Season 2 episode 16 Zelda pulls a periscope down from the ceiling, to which Sabrina reasonably asks "Since when do we have a periscope in the kitchen?" Hilda replies with "You've lived here two years and you've never noticed it? Teenagers."
  • Two in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Ripple Effect". First, Dr. Lee asks why all the teams coming in from alternate universes are SG-1; Carter explains it away as SG-1 being the front-line team and most likely to get into trouble offworld which would make the SGC more likely to let them through. Soon after, Dr. Lee mentions offhand that the proximity of the various universes to each other accounts for the lack of "entropic cascade failure" that previously occurred when an alternate Carter came to the SGC.
  • Star Trek is famous for its technobabble "explanations", but sometimes it doesn't even try that hard:
    • An early episode of Star Trek: Voyager has the crew needing to conserve power. Yet they still wanted the characters to play around on the holodeck. So they threw in a line about how its power systems are self-contained and cannot be used by any other system on the ship.
    • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Paradise Lost", Captain Sisko is framed as a shape-shifting Changeling by a Well-Intentioned Extremist, who somehow rigs Sisko's blood sample to move by itself and glow the way Changelings do when changing shape. In the following Just Between You and Me scene, Sisko asks him how he did that. He replies, "Does it really matter?" and the subject is dropped.
    • In "Trials And Tribble-ations", several Deep Space Nine crew members (including Commander Worf) travel back in time to an episode from Star Trek: The Original Series. They remark on the difference in appearance between Worf (with his elaborate makeup and appliances) and the smooth-headed Kirk-era Klingons (with very simple makeup). Worf puts them off, saying, "We do not discuss it with outsiders." Eventually it is retconned in Star Trek: Enterprise as the result of some earlier botched attempts to create genetically "augmented" Klingons.
    • The transporters include a component called a "Heisenberg compensator" as a handwave to get around quantum uncertainty effects. Michael Okuda (one of the designers of Star Trek, starting with the fourth movie) got around a question during an interview for Time Magazine about how it works by answering, "It works very well, thank you."
    • The enduring question of where everyone gets their anti-matter from. No episode has ever addressed this issue, probably because there isn't a satisfactory answer.
  • The Supernatural episode "Hello, Cruel World" established that Leviathans can assume the forms of humans they've come in physical contact with, and doing so grants them all the knowledge and memories of that particular human. However, in "The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" when the Leviathans needed Felicia Day's character to extract information from a hard drive for them, it was revealed that certain humans have a "spark" to them that the Leviathans can't replicate. This was presumably done to avoid the question of why they didn't just kill her, steal her memories, decode the hard drive themselves, and avoid the inevitable Heel–Face Turn.
  • Wonder Woman: Wonder Girl also has a magic tiara, lasso of truth. and invisible plane. Does Paradise Island stock one of these for each amazon? Is there a massive hangar of invisible planes somewhere on the island? Regardless, these are presented as special and seemingly unique items until Drusilla came along and then a second set somehow became available without explanation.



    Tabletop Games 
  • Typically every miniature in any one unit in Warhammer 40,000 will share a single body type. While the reason for this is clearly to simplify the design process and cut costs, this is sometimes given a hand-wave justification in the backstory. For example, Space Marines are all male because gene-seed is keyed to male hormones.
  • Mage: The Awakening: Unlike other spells that produce overtly unnatural effects, Healing isn't classified as Vulgar magic and therefore doesn't automatically threaten a Magic Misfire. One sourcebook attributes the inconsistency to the Oracles tweaking the rules of magic to cut some slack for people who are already in a bad situation.

    Video Games 
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth's motivations stem from wanting to become a deity, but the exact mechanisms he's planning to use for this are somewhat hand-wavey. It makes sense though, since biologically Sephiroth was actually more Jenova than human at the time. Everything he did does make sense, with that knowledge.
    • Final Fantasy VI's Kefka Pallazo. His motivation for conquering the world and the magic could also fall in this trope, but for him a motivation is not really necessary considering he's nuts. He just do it because he can and wants to.
  • The video game Deus Ex has lockpicks and multitools that, for some unexplained reason, can only be used once. During the tutorial level your support says that "unlocking doors expends the resources of modern lockpicks", but seeing as how the actual item is just two rods that spin about, it doesn't make much sense. It's never mentioned why the multitools can only be used once. Maybe they used really cheap batteries?
    • It gets worse. In Deus Ex: Human Revolution when you're hacking you have access to special software that help you beat the security system. That software is expendable. In the future, DRM will be better than the hackers?
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, here have been several major changes to the game world and/or the races living within it that have changed over the course of the series. Most have since been given an official in-universe explanation of varying quality and coherence. To note:
    • Until Oblivion showed it as a mostly temperate hardwood forest, the nation of Cyrodiil was referred to as a tropical jungle earlier in the series. The in-universe explanation is that it was a jungle, until Talos used his powers as a newly ascended god to perform a Cosmic Retcon, changing Cyrodiil to make the Imperial soldiers who served him so well more comfortable. The Elder Scrolls Online, which is a prequel to the main series, shows it much the same as it is in Oblivion, meaning that Talos' changes were apparently retroactive as well.
    • The Art Evolution of the Argonians and Khajiit throughout the series has since been explained a result of in-universe forces. To note:
      • The Argonians owe their changes to the Hist, sentient and possibly omniscient trees whose sap the Argonians drink to grow. The Hist began to change the Argonians around the time of the Oblivion Crisis, making them stronger and more aggressive to prepare for the coming chaos and wars.
      • The Khajiit have various sub-species which look different as adults depending on the phases of Nirn's twin moons under which they were born. Certain sub-species are more common in different provinces, leading to their changing appearance throughout the series. On the other hand, they have yet to explain why all Khajiit outside of Elsweyr are specifically one sub-species in each game.
    • Elder Scrolls lore also includes a plot device called a "Dragon Break," which is a cosmic event with no specific cause or explanation that can merge several timelines, erase historical events, or justify any other incontinuity. Although the series's in-universe history does include several purposeful, intentional, and plot-relevant "Dragon Breaks," the idea was originally conceived as a handwave to allow all the conflicting endings of Daggerfall to be canon simultaneously.
  • Three endings in Drakengard are given explanations like this. The third ending has expository dialogue which is particularly ambiguous and poorly written. The fourth ending's explanation trumps them all, though, with a hastily-written and somewhat nonsensical fable being the justification for a suicide run against the Final Boss in the hopes that the fable will be re-enacted. Given, the circumstances were pretty dire, so the characters could almost be excused for thinking what they did. The fifth ending, well, is supposed to be anticlimactic. What else do you expect to happen after vanquishing Ultimate Evil? The sequel clears up a lot of the fog presented here, but that's no excuse.
  • The manual of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 handwaved the game's physics bugs as just part of the "many diabolical traps" created by Dr. Robotnik.
  • BioShock:
    • The research camera analyzes the creatures you photograph and will give you "research bonuses" towards greater damage. Atlas explains this with a lot of five dollar words, but it still doesn't eliminate the fact that it's just a camera.
    • An even bigger hand-wave of the same stripe comes in the form of the Camouflage Tonic, discovered by research-photographing the disappearing-reappearing Houdini Splicers. That's right, kids, all it takes to engineer an advanced tonic that allows you to go sight unseen is a few handy snapshots! Grab those cameras and do Andrew Ryan proud!
    • The Vita-Chambers handwave Bioshock's system of allowing the player to respawn at the instant of his death, with opponents retaining the damage you have already dealt them. Not that it does Ryan any good later on. He did state that he has disabled the nearest Vita Chamber before letting you in to see him. Perhaps it does have an effective range. It's implied that Suchong created them using the research he did on quantum transdimensions in BioShock Infinite. The Vita-Chambers don't really make sense otherwise.
    • The existence of villain Sophia Lamb in BioShock 2 is justified by a Handwave. Lamb's a brilliant psychiatrist, smart and eloquent enough to best Andrew Ryan in public debates and charismatic enough to assemble a cult. Why did we play through the first game without the slightest hint of her existence? There's an audio recording in the sequel where Ryan tells his security chief to go beyond just imprisoning Lamb: he wants her wiped from the history books. Problem solved.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3:
    • After completing the game once, you get The Boss's gun if you start a New Game+. If you equip it and call your weapons expert, he asks how Snake has it, and Snake tells him not to worry about it. He also tells Snake that the gun has infinite ammo because the ammo feed is shaped like an infinity sign. "Makes sense..."
    • If Snake calls Para-Medic after finding Bio-Luminescent Mushrooms, he'll ask if eating them will recharge his batteries; Para-Medic jokingly tells him "Sure, why not?" Eating the mushrooms actually does recharge the batteries; calling Para-Medic afterwards yields an amusing conversation where she steps away from the radio and talks to Sigint, trying to figure out how it could possibly work. The best explanation they can come up with is the placebo effect; Snake is so gullible that his belief made it work somehow.
  • Borderlands 2 has a few in-universe examples in the Bunkers & Badasses DLC, such as "Because... REASONS!"
  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! introduces a new weapon element, Cryo, and laser-type weapons. So why can't you use them in Borderlands 2? Because they can only be used on the moon of Elpis: the liquid methane in Cryo weapons would evaporate in Pandora's atmosphere, and laser weapons are delicate pieces of machinery that would break under Pandora's gravity.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap seems to be, at least in part, Nintendo's attempt to do more than simply hand wave the fact that Link is able to find money in random bushes and patches of grass, by explaining that the tiny race of people known as the Minish like to scatter the money for big people to find. They also scatter bombs, arrows, and hearts, and may be responsible for some of the ubiquitous treasure chests. Meanwhile, the Japan- and Europe-only Freshly-Picked Tingle's Rosy Rupeeland states that Tingle was the perpetrator of the above, so it's not really clear.
  • In the original Street Fighter, players fought an enemy named Birdie, who was a white punk with a mohawk. When the character returned in Street Fighter Alpha, he was a huge, hulking, black punk with an even bigger mohawk. In Street Fighter Alpha 3, he claims in one of his win quotes, "I looked pale because I was sick."
  • Due to the CD-i controller having only two buttons, in The Legend of Zelda CD-i Games, you interact with all objects in the game world by hitting them with your sword. This also includes the NPCs which you can start a conversation with by stabbing them. This is hand waved in the in-game tutorial:
    Link: Luckily I brought my Smart Sword. It won't hurt anyone friendly. In fact, it makes them talk!
  • World of Warcraft pulls a bit of one in the justification for why the Gnomes had failed to retake Gnomeregan for four years and the Darkspear Trolls had failed to recapture the Echo Isles, despite each being held by an elite boss capable of being killed by low-level players. Apparently, the thousands of Thermaplugg's and Zalazane's heads turned in by players over the years were all from fakes, not the real deal.
    • One of the Caverns of Time dungeons has the Infinite Dragonflight attempting to stop the Orcs' arrival on Azeroth. While Horde players wouldn't want this to happen, as it led to their eventual redemption and the formation of the New Horde, it could actually be a pretty sweet deal to the Alliance, who would be avoiding two wars, the destruction of Stormwind and a lot of people being killed. In order to justify Alliance players running the dungeon anyway, the Bronze Dragonflight attempts to Handwave this by saying that without a common threat to unite them the various races of the Alliance would have dissolved into infighting and destroyed each other.
    • During the Horde campaign against Gilneas in Cataclysm, there's an almost offhand remark about how being turned into a worgen makes one immune to undeath. Well, since both are curses and the only undead worgen are Player Character death knights, that's understandable. But then Sylvanas throws out a line about the Alliance only sending non-human forces against the Forsaken because they're all immune to undeath. Said line only exists to justify why the Forsaken don't simply plague and turn all the Alliance forces.
  • Remnants of Skystone vaguely attempts to justify why the player missions could surely be done by the Rooks, Nidaria's standing army (who are even just dressed better to take on monsters than you), with a description that says they employ freelancers when they can't wait for the Rooks' ponderous command structure to swing into action, and with individual Rooks in the levels telling you that they wish they could accompany you, but they have orders to remain at their post.
  • Conflicts in the Tales Series are often justified with these. No good reason for our heroes and the boss to be fighting? Heroes agree? Well, too bad for them, that's just the way things are.
  • Superman 64 is an odd case of having two different plots before release, and both were handwaves. The game's original plot was that Lex Luthor was spreading Kryptonite fog all over Metropolis, which was clearly a clumsy attempt to explain the game's ridiculous amount of fogging (a common trick used in early 3D games to prevent framerate dips). Later, the story was changed to Lex Luthor trapping Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen in a virtual reality version of Metropolis, which handwaves not only the fogging but every other problem with the game.
  • Kid Icarus: Uprising
    • There's a particularly funny hand wave regarding Pit not wanting to take his clothes off in the Hot Spring, as seen in the trailer.
    • In Chapter 5:
      Pit: What's an Exo Tank doing here anyway?
      Pandora: I wanted to get my driver's license. So I whipped up a little parking lot to practice in. But then it hit me. How am I supposed to steer without hands?
      Pit: How'd you build a parking lot without hands?
      Pandora: Hard work and determination.
  • Dark Souls's explanation for Co-Op Multiplayer and PvP: "Uh... The flow of time is convoluted. Yeah that's it." Although they do back that up, the actual "online" aspect of it is more handwaved, because there are a few in game references to the effect of time not being quite right with white spirits.
  • A Foundry mission for Star Trek Online titled "Relics" has a part where a Human Popsicle has to be sent back to his home time period through a sister artifact to the Guardian of Forever. Your ship's counselor hangs a lampshade on the Guardian of Balance's claim that so doing has restored the timeline, noting that the event that would've altered it, not sending him back, didn't happen in the first place. The Guardian basically says the Federation's understanding of time isn't advanced enough to comprehend it.
  • In Shin Super Robot Wars, Ryusei wants to know why Dancouga is combined instead of being split into its constituent Battle Beasts. Masato meanly asks Shinobu Fujiwara to explain, and the others finally say that Shinobu did something careless, and they've been ordered not to separate.
  • In Super Robot Wars BX, Eldoran creates a copy of the Raijinoh team's classroom inside of the Diva battleship, so they can deploy anywhere.
  • Portal gives an interesting example of a purely visual handwave. Early testers consistently griped that they didn't really get how Chell could fling herself around the puzzles like a Superball and never take any harm from high speed impacts with walls and ground. So the devs put some big springs on her legs. With no further exposition, and despite the game being in first person perspective such that it took some tricky portal placement to even see Chell's legs, this fixed the Suspension of Disbelief right up.
  • Alucard explains in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night why Dracula's castle is very different in every games. The castle is "a creature of Chaos."
  • In The Desolate Hope, the most you're given about where the objects you give the Derelicts come from are "They came from the last probes that were sent to us"
  • The World Ends with You: The reason why Shiki still looks like Eri in Another Day is handwaved by Joshua should you decide to look for him when you start the day (he's in Udagawa, by the way): he claims that this is a result of the player refusing to perceive reality as it truly is instead of prolonging their own misconceptions. (Either that, or the developers were too lazy-ass to create an appropriate set of sprites that would only be used once. Another Day is like that.) He doesn't mention her name specifically, but he does mention "a certain young lady."
  • ARMA 3 is an open-world military shooter that features a lot of enterable buildings. However, the player will find that nearly every building in the game lacks any form of furniture. The player can find newspaper with headings like "Mysterious Disappearance of all Furniture!" with a picture of a UFO.
  • The Silent Age gives us a virus brought from the future, that destroyed the humankind in a day or two. We eventually learn that the virus in question is a kind of avian flu, and whatever rendered it SO lethal is handwaved in some reports as its reaction to time travel.
  • Pokémon X and Y introduce Mega Evolution, which was first enabled/discovered some 3,000 years ago. Despite this, Aerodactyl has a Mega Evolution despite being long extinct by the time such an event occured. The official website gets around this by claiming that some In-Universe researchers believe Mega Aerodactyl is the creature's original appearance before being fossilized.
  • In Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, when the Storyteller is explaining to the court about how they're not actually from the past, and how the Shades use metal bells to knock everyone unconscious which works because everyone in the town drinks from the same tainted water source, he mentions that the Shades drink from a different water source. Phoenix points out that the Shades still would have had the water from the town's source in their bodies. The Storyteller then says that the water's effects wear off exactly a day after it's drunk.
  • Parodied in Bullet Heaven 2. Natalie panics about the second level of the second world, stating she can't breathe.
    Matt: Don't worry! Thanks to the developer, we can breathe underwater for no reason! It's actually kind of cool!
  • Diablo III has Zoltun Kulle as a boss who is fought and defeated in Act II, only to return post-game as the overseer of Kanai's Cube. How did he return from the dead?
    Zoltun Kulle: I'm very hard to kill and really, you did a sloppy job. But enough small talk.
  • Idle Mine Remix mentions that in the Universe, planets cannot become much larger than over 250000 km in diameter because the immense mass and pressure in the core would start a nuclear fusion, which means that the planet would become a star. But thanks to the game's different physics that can be done.

    Web Animation 
  • Lampshaded in Keegan's Truck 5, when Commander Canada repeatedly dodges Keegan's questions on how the former is alive despite being killed years ago (repeatedly insisting that it is irrelevant), culminating with this exchange:
    Keegan: What are you hiding? Why can't you tell me?
    Commander Canada: I can't tell you why I'm still alive because the author is too lazy to come up with anything! Let it go!
    Keegan: Oh. Okay.
    Commander Canada: Now, back to the damn story.

  • The webcomic Harkovast does this with the explanation for why the female reptilian humanoids have breasts.
  • Girl Genius
    • The Foglios make fun of this trope. A fictional Agatha on a radio show broadcast by the in-universe Foglios builds a "mechanical taxidermist and tailor" in a forest without even a box of scraps. How? She completely fails to explain.
      Agatha: Please. I always carry a Swiss army knife and a coil of wire.
    • Later on, Othar Trygvassen, Gentleman Adventurer gets what appears to be a back-breaking injury from a Jagermonster. Not a comic later, he is back on his feet and punching said Jagermonster like nothing happened. He explains his recovery with "Special trousers. Very heroic."
    • Invoked in-universe when Airman Higgs offers to guide the group through Castle Heterodyne because he supposedly saw and memorized a map of the Castle previously. Sleipnir begins to protest the impossibility of this before Theo shushes her. They need his help and if he needs to have "found a map" to offer it, then that's what they'll go with.
  • 8-Bit Theater lampshades this with "the wizard who did it."
  • Captain Broadband dies at the end of issue two when killed by his own explosives device. By issue three he is back without explanation, save a small editor box stating clearly 'Captain Broadband died last issue' with no further explanation.
  • What the Fu's preferred way of explaining things. The characters just roll with it.
  • Neon Ice Cream Headache involves a drug that causes its user to be Trapped in TV Land. How can a simple pill do that? The exaplanation given is that "It aligns your nervous system with a certain electro-magnetic frequency."
  • 1/0: Tailsteak's explanation of how light behaves. It's a one-time exception, and it's Played for Laughs.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Goku uses "Muffin Button" as an excuse a few times for plot holes. Coincidentally, it turned out to be the reason he survived Namek's destruction.
    Krillin: How did you survive?!
    Goku: Hmm... Muffin But—
    Gohan: Please don't say "Muffin Button!
    Goku: But it was! There was science and stuff"!
  • Project Million: Spazz tries to figure out how The Wire escaped her TV. She throws several explanations at him such as she's not there and that he's in a dream within a dream, before claiming she "crawled through a river of shit and came out the other side clean."
  • During the Geb arc in Vaguely Recalling JoJo, Dr. Light calls Greg/Zato-1 and tells him that a special doctor helped Holly with her Stand problem, giving the Joestar group extra time in killing Dio once and for all.

    Western Animation 
  • The Æon Flux episode "Reraizure" deals with the fate of creatures called "Narghiles." Since they're dangerous, one character decides to get rid of them, but because "You can't kill them" (those were his exact words and the only explanation given), he plans to put them all on a platform that will be shot into space.
  • Creator example: writers for the Justice League Unlimited episode "Epilogue" state that part of the reason they wrote the episode's events - revealing Terry McGinnis to be Bruce Wayne's biological son - was them realizing both him and his brother Matt have black hair, which looking at their parents (Mary is a redhead while Warren has light brown hair) is genetically improbable, a very clever way of handwaving any inconsistencies said reveal may create.
  • Family Guy
    • The show likes to lampshade its hand waves, since it makes no secret of operating on the Rule of Funny.
      Stewie: Say, Brian, now that I think about it, how can you possibly have a thirteen-year-old son when you yourself are only seven?
      Brian: Well, those are dog years.
      Stewie: That doesn't make any sense.
      Brian: You know what, Stewie? If you don't like it, go on the internet and complain.
    • And again:
      Brian: So why did they film that scene live?
      Stewie: Convenience.
      Brian: Yeah, but—
      Stewie: Let's not start pulling threads on this one.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", after Homer tells Bart and Lisa about his barbershop quartet, the kids have some questions about why they'd never heard about it until now, where all the money went, and so forth. Homer assures them that "there are perfectly logical answers to all those questions, but they'll have to wait for another day." note 
    • Mr. Burns, when asked for an explanation of how he managed to inexplicably get to the basement ahead of them, simply says "Oh there'll be time for explanations later."
    • One is made explaining the appearance of Frank Grimes, Jr.:
      Homer: Wait a minute, Frank Grimes wasn't married!
      Junior: He happened to like hookers, okay?
    • How can eight-year-old Ralph Wiggum, original Trope Namer for The Ditz, run for President in E Pluribus Wiggum? Simple: the Patriot Act killed the Constitution to protect freedom.
    • The premise of "Homer the Genius" is that Homer is an idiot because he has had a crayon lodged in his brain since he was a child. Marge at one point questions Dr. Hibbert how this could have gone undetected, given how often Homer's skull has been x-rayed over the years. Hibbert replies that his thumb must have been accidentally covering up the crayon every time he held one of the x-rays in the past.
    • In "Blame it on Lisa" Marge visits the phone company and encounters Lindsey Neagle, the fast-talking female executive who seems to work everywhere in Springfield.
      Marge:We've met you many times, Ms. Naegle. Why do you keep changing jobs?
      Neagle: [menacingly] I'm a sexual predator.
      Marge: [understandingly] Oh.
  • One episode of X-Men: Evolution has Wolverine telling a story of how he fought in World War II alongside Captain America. When asked by Professor X how he remembers this in spite of the fact that he has such profound amnesia, Wolverine Hand Waves it by saying he remembers bits and pieces of the recent past while everything else is a blur.
  • Futurama
    • One episode features a premise where everyone except for Professor Farnsworth died, leading to Farnsworth attempting to resurrect them. Complications in the plot led to the existence of ridiculously human robot versions of Fry and Leela. Once everything is cleared up between them and the real ones, the robot doppelgangers leave with this exchange:
      Robot Leela: We're robots and we're in love. Let's ditch these meat jackets. [strips out of her mutant skin, revealing a Terminator-like exoskeleton]
      Robot Fry: Whoa, cool! [takes off his human skin to show a similar exoskeleton, then speaks in a matching voice] Hasta la vista, wiener!
      Robot Leela: [also in a Terminator voice] We'll be back... for our stuff.
      [the two robots leave]
      Amy: Why did their voices change?
      Farnsworth: That's the one thing we'll never truly understand.
    • One funny example is from the episode "The Deep South." Dr. Zoidberg makes a new home inside a giant conch shell in the ocean. Later on, hilarity ensues when it is destroyed through likewise impossible means.
      Zoidberg: My home! It burned down! [sobbing] How did this happen!?
      Hermes: That's a very good question!
      Bender: So THAT'S where I left my cigar. [retrieves the cigar, puffs on it]
      Hermes: That just raises further questions!!!
    • A great deal of Futurama's plot points are hand waved. Usually done through Professor Farnsworth, usually played for laughs, and usually raising way, way more questions than they answer. Of special note is the episode Clone of My Own.
      Cubert J. Farnsworth: That's impossible! You can't go faster than the speed of light.
      Professor: Of course not. That's why scientists increased the speed of light in 2206.
    • The often-changing nature of how Bender works can result in these. Such as in Crimes of The Hot:
      Bender: No! It's just... neither of us can get up when we get knocked on our back.
      Fry: What? I've seen you get up off your back tons of times.
      Bender: Those times I was slightly on my side.
    • Or in Lethal Inspection:
      Bender: Nuh-uh! My wireless back-up unit saves a copy of me every day. So, if my body gets killed, big whoop, I just download into another body. I'm immortal, baby!
      Amy: What? Then how come you always scream so much when you're in danger?
      Bender: I never said I wasn't a drama queen.
  • In Evil Con Carne, Hector Con Carne, Major Doctor Ghastly, and General Skarr visit an island and meet their currently elderly future selves. Eventually, we learn that Hector and Ghastly settled down and bore a son which Hector, being only a brain and a (sentient) stomach attached to a bear, naturally lampshades. Ghastly handwaves this as being caused by "the miracle of love."
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy:
    • When Billy suggests Grim use his scythe to warp reality and make Mandy beautiful, Grim just says "I'm not a miracle worker!"
    • And then there's:
      Mandy: Grim, it's time to go to school.
      Grim: I am the Grim Reaper. I don't have to go to school.
      Billy: This episode, you do!
  • Early South Park episodes described the "Terrance and Phillip Show" as a cartoon with crappy animation, though this later evolved into a weirder (but funnier) premise that the show was actually filmed in Canada, where everything actually was crappy-looking. In the episode "Behind the Blow," which parodied VH1's "Behind the Music", this inconsistency was waved away with a rather convoluted explanation. Apparently, in the South Park world there used to be a Terrance and Phillip cartoon that was separate from the live-action show, but the cartoon was so popular many people became confused as to whether or not T&P were real people or cartoon characters.
  • In a likely example of Playing with a Trope, in the South Park episode "Gnomes", the Underpants Gnomes steal underpants, and describe their entire plan as:
    Phase 1: Steal Underpants.
    Phase 2: ?
    Phase 3: Profit
    Cartman: Oh, now I get it!
    Kyle: No you don't!
  • In The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius episode "The Junk Man", Sheen asks Jimmy several questions as they are flying to and from the Moon, like why the voyage takes only a few minutes and why the boys don't need space suits and helmets. However, both times Jimmy starts to answer Sheen's questions, the camera cuts to Carl on the other side of the rocket singing an off-key, made-up song about the Moon. Both times Carl finishes singing, the camera cuts to Jimmy asking Sheen if he understands his answer and Sheen responding that he is still confused. On the third question, Carl's singing gets annoying, leading Sheen to yell "Carl! Enough with the song!", but even then we still do not get a plausible explanation.
  • In the Invader Zim episode "The Frycook What Came From All That Space", Sizz-Lorr's very appearance is lampshaded by Zim of all people. The handwave comes in with Sizz-Lorr's response.
    Sizz-Lorr: After your escape, the great Foodening began! Foodcourtia's most horrible food rush, that lasts twenty years! The gravatational pull from all that snacking makes it impossible for anything to leave the planet. I was trapped. Alone. Without help.
    Zim: Twenty years? But I haven't been gone that long.
    Sizz-Lorr: There's a time warp involved or something.
  • Invoked in Clerks: The Animated Series, while Randal goes on another Star Wars-related tangent:
    Randal: "That's another thing; what about the lightsabers? I mean, you turn it on, and it goes yea high. How does it know when to stop?"
    Dante: "Um... The Force?"
    Randal: "Man, that's your answer for everything."
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic series as a whole tends to use magic as a hand wave whenever something pops up that shouldn't be able to function in the setting. Back in the day, the producer Lauren Faust had the writers make a point of sticking with things like candles or hand powered tools whenever possible, but if the story absolutely needed something more advanced to advance the plot, bam! A Wizard Did It!
    • "Look Before You Sleep", three of the ponies are having a sleepover at Twilight Sparkle's house, which happens to be a massive tree. In a thunderstorm. Applejack wastes no time pointing out that a tree isn't exactly the best place to be when there is lightning. Twilight's answer? "Magical lightning rod" which is, again, Truth in Television as it's not uncommon to equip buildings that are at risk to lightning strikes with such a thing (though a non-magical copper wire and ground rod will suffice).
    • In "Baby Cakes", Applejack wonders how come Mr. and Mrs. Cake, who are earth ponies, managed to give birth to fraternal twins who are a pegasus and a unicorn. Mr. Cake hastily explains that he has a distant relative who was a unicorn, and his wife has a distant relative who was a pegasus, then nervously adds "That makes sense, right?"
      • And it's perhaps deliberately made as ridiculous as possible, as one of those relations would require the genes to go back in time and across a marriage.
    • To say nothing about Equestria Girls, wherein Pinkie Pie (in both worlds) manages to guess what's going on in the other world. The only explanation as to how she knows almost exactly what's going on? "Just a hunch!" The reason the humane five are at odds with each other? Fake emails and texts were sent... and why didn't they think to talk to each other in person? Oh, they simply "Didn't think about it." The show later made fun of this by implying the human and pony Pinkies casually trade places sometimes.
  • At the end of the Steven Universe episode "Keeping It Together", Steven wonders how the washing machine and dryer work when they're up on one of the hands of the Gem Temple and not plugged into anything. Garnet curtly explains it as "Magic", complete with a literal hand wave.
  • One episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show had a sequence where Linus was carrying around a green blanket rather than his usual blue one, with Lucy saying off-screen that "Linus has a stupid new green blanket!" It's really obvious that the coloring was an animation error, and that they simply threw in Lucy's dialogue just to hand wave it, since it was dubbed in so poorly.
  • In the fourth season of Littlest Pet Shop (2012), the Biskit Twins' mother finally appears, explaining her long absence by saying she had been staying in the east wing of the mansion the whole time nursing a really bad headache.
  • Aladdin: The Series fell prey to this rather often, considering one of the main cast members is an omnipotent genie. Most of the time, when the rest of the cast suggested using some of his phenomenal cosmic powers, he'd respond that his magic just wasn't strong enough to get them out of that week's fix. Of course, if the cast could just have Genie zap away any problem they ran into, there'd be no show...

    Real Life 
  • In dreams, if you are aware enough to spot an inconsistency, your mind will Handwave it with the first explanation it can think of (which can be even more implausible than the original fact) to prevent you from waking up. And you will perfectly accept it. Then, when you wake up, Fridge Logic will come to you. In lucid dreaming, things that are out of the ordinary or impossible are called Dream Signs.
  • A person whose brain's lobes have been separated makes for interesting experiments. Essentially, each eye now reports only to half of the brain and each half is operating somewhat independently. Show one eye a card telling the person to do something (get up and get a Coke, say) and the person will then do so with no memory of having read the card. Ask why he did that and (presuming it's the other lobe controlling the mouth) he'll begin inventing more and more fabulous explanations for why he did so, even when he's shown the card with both eyes. Freaky.
    • It gets freakier. Severing the corpus collusum (part of the brain that connects its two hemispheres) which formerly was done to prevent epileptic seizures, can lead to alien hand syndrome. Each hand, like the eye, is controlled from the opposite hemisphere. So when they are separate, the left "rational" hemisphere is not in control of the left hand, but rather the right "emotional" hemisphere is. This had led to the right hemisphere and left hand essentially becoming mentally ill. One case had a man whose left hand would unbutton his shirt once the right hand had buttoned it up. An episode of House dealt with a patient who suffered from this. Even more extreme are the cases where the right hemisphere is violent. One patient had to sit on his left hand or it would attempt to attack people. In other cases, it may be suicidal (possibly an inspiration for Dr. Strangelove, where the titular character had to stop his hand from going into a Nazi salute, or attempting to strangle him).
  • Even when the brain is whole, people are capable of awesome hand waves. When confronted with moral decisions, people make them almost instantly (unless they're really tough, like whether it's okay to sacrifice four people to save five others). Essentially, three things happen when we make a moral decision. One portion of the brain feels empathy for those involved (oh, wook at da baaybeees). Another portion of the brain seeks a much more utilitarian solution (kill the spares, collect all the food, live as a king). Depending on how strongly these two fire, we reach a decision, usually some kind of balance between the two. Then the final act happens: our prefrontal cortex (the part of the frontal lobe responsible for, among other things, logical thought) justifies the decision we've reached. In other words, all those books you had to read in philosophy 101 about morality and the justification for various ethics? So much handwaving for decisions stuffy German men had already made. But very, very sophisticated handwaving.
  • One way people reduce cognitive dissonance (holding conflicting viewpoints, which includes a difference between our actions — say, driving an SUV — and our beliefs — say, environmentalism — which causes some discomfort) is by rationalizing their actions. This rationalization often takes the form of handwaves ("If it wasn't me driving this SUV, it'd be someone else, and I use public transport when I can."). Often if you give these explanations to other people, they'll point out just how flimsy they are. Unless they agree with you, in which case they'll tell you how rock-solid your logic is.
  • This often happens in political discussions. Alice supports Politician X because he is a member of her preferred party. Bob points out that Politician X is corrupt and supports policies that conflict with Alice's morals. Alice invents reasons why Politician X's controversial actions aren't actually that bad, and he's still better than Politician Y.
  • This can happen in improvised situations, such as in a dramatic exercise. One person says they can do something fantastical, while another, more grounded person questions why. The first person then quickly makes up a completely random and ridiculous explanation, instead of standing around going 'ummmm'.
    • This can happen particularly with more imaginative students, as more realistic students tend to make up situations he/she is comfortable with, eg, cooking, or dancing.
      • Also in speed writing, where, when under a time limit, participants don't have the luxury of sitting down and figuring out exactly how their character can time travel. 'She was given a magic pendant from a billion years ago.'
  • Whenever you show a Conspiracy Theorist some piece of evidence that suggests their theory is wrong they will invariably make some lame excuse about why it doesn't count. After all, evidence against the theory is further proof that the powers that be want to keep you from questioning anything.
  • There is a phenomenom called the Illusion of Knowledge, which basically means if you try to think about something but don't know all the details your brain will simply make up details on the spot to fill in the gaps. In most cases, this is completely subconscious and the person really believes the story their brain concocted.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Scotch Tape, Handwaved, Hand Waving


Smoking Handwave

How do you make a smoking product placement in a space movie? Easy fix! There's even a literal handwave.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / HandWave

Media sources:

Main / HandWave